Trump's controversial EPA nominee withdraws following GOP objections

Michael Dourson was tapped to oversee the EPA's chemical safety division despite his ties to the chemicals industry

By Matthew Rozsa

Published December 14, 2017 1:53PM (EST)

 (Getty/Nicholas Kamm)
(Getty/Nicholas Kamm)

Michael Dourson, a researcher whose work had been frequently used by chemical companies to downplay the hazards posed by their products, has withdrawn his name from consideration to oversee the Environmental Protection Agency's chemical safety division.

Dourson became the target of substantial opposition from both Democrats and public health advocacy groups when his nomination was announced, according to NBC News. The concern was that, because he had spent decades conducting research that chemicals companies used to allay public concerns about the safety risks posed by their products, Dourson might not be impartial enough to effectively serve the public's interest in his position at the Environmental Protection Agency.

His relationship with close relationship with the American Chemistry Council was apparently so egregious that Republican Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina came out in opposition to his his nomination last month. Republican Sen. Susan Collins also stated that she was “leaning against him.”

"Instead of draining the swamp, [Trump] has filled it up with some of the swampiest creatures ever. And it keeps getting scarier — Michael Dourson might be the worst yet. Dr. Dourson has made a career of creating junk science for industry," Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said in November.

His concerns were echoed by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

"We need someone who’s going to be a watchdog, not a lapdog for the special-interest chemical industry and other producers of contaminants and substances that can literally kill people, or stunt the growth of children, or make people sick," Blumenthal said at the time.

Dourson's nomination never reached the point where it was scheduled for a confirmation vote. Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., mounted a behind-the-scenes effort to convince his colleagues to reject Dourson's nomination, according to The New York Times. Dourson notified the White House on Wednesday that he was withdrawing his name.

"I sincerely believe he is the wrong person to hold this important position, and it’s become clear that, even with a Republican majority in the Senate, he could not be confirmed. Dr. Dourson, an individual who has spent most of his career promoting less protective chemical safety standards, had no business overseeing our nation’s chemical safety laws," Carper said in a statement.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Chemicals Industry Environmental Protection Agency Epa Flame Retardants Michael Dourson Pesticides